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INGLEWOOD — In the end, the takeaways were the biggest takeaways from the Chargers’ 22-17 exhibition loss Sunday to the New Orleans Saints at SoFi Stadium. Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next after the Saints capitalized on the Chargers’ mistakes:

STICK’S STRUGGLES

Quarterback Easton Stick played the entire game, running for 63 yards and two touchdowns and passing for 233 yards with two interceptions. Stick’s fumble on a sack led to a New Orleans touchdown, one interception led to a field goal and another interception essentially ended the game.

“Up and down, to say the least,” Stick said of his performance.

“Uneven,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley called it.

Stick, who is expected to be Justin Herbert’s backup when the regular season begins Sept. 10, was under more pressure from the Saints than he was during the Chargers’ 34-17 victory over the Rams on Aug. 12. As a result, his throws were hurried and he was forced to scramble frequently.

In fact, Stick was better with his feet than with his arm.

He also was more effective in the final minutes of the half and the game.

Overall, he rushed seven times for 63 yards, an average of 9 yards per attempt. He scored on runs of 6 and 1 yards, the second of which pulled the Chargers within 22-17 with 3:46 remaining in the game. He completed 21 of 41 passes for 233 yards, but did not throw for a touchdown.

Stick had a chance to drive the Chargers to a victory after they stuffed the Saints, forcing them to punt from their own 18-yard line with 2:45 remaining. He took the Chargers down the field, but a fourth-and-four pass from the Saints’ 28 was intercepted. Stick was trying to hit Terrell Bynum near the goal line.

In the first half, Stick fumbled after he was sacked, which set up Kendre Miller’s 7-yard touchdown run that gave New Orleans a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. Stick’s first interception set up Blake Grupe’s 35-yard field goal that made it 10-3 inside the final two minutes.

Stone Smartt caught four passes from Stick, and Derius Davis, Keelan Doss and Quentin Johnston had three receptions each. Stick targeted Smartt, a tight end, and Doss, a wide receiver, five times each. Johnston caught each of the three passes Stick threw to him after two drops against the Rams.

“We didn’t protect the passer very well,” Staley said when asked to assess the play of Stick, who completed 14 of 21 passes for 109 yards and one touchdown in the first half against the Rams. “I didn’t think we threw it with accuracy. I just thought it was inconsistent throughout the night.

“Certainly, three turnovers really told the story tonight.”

GETTING THEIR KICKS

There aren’t many camp battles, but the kicking position is one of them.

Dustin Hopkins made a 25-yard field goal and an extra point after Stick’s 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and Cameron Dicker converted the extra point after Stick’s 6-yard scoring run in the second quarter as Staley stuck to his plan to give each player a chance to kick Sunday.

GETTING DEFENSIVE

The Chargers limited the Saints to 61 yards on 26 rushing attempts, an average of 2.3 yards. New Orleans quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Jake Haener combined to throw for 287 yards, with Winston completing 13 of 21 passes for 169 yards. The Chargers didn’t force a turnover.

“I really liked the way the group competed,” Staley said. “I thought that they gave us a chance. I thought our run defense, our third-down defense, our red-zone defense was really good.”

Staley lamented several missed chances for takeaways.

“There were at least five opportunities for interceptions that I felt like our guys needed to come down with,” he said. “My father would say, if you come down with one-third of them, I think we would have been in a lot better shape. We didn’t capitalize on their mistakes and they capitalized on ours.”

WHAT COMES NEXT

The Chargers face the San Francisco 49ers in their exhibition finale Friday in Santa Clara.


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